The first of several likely proposed school zone changes is proving unpopular with some parents, although School Board members and district officials say the adjustments are needed to relieve overcrowded schools and shorten bus rides for students.
In an attempt to alleviate packed campuses at Green T. Lindon Elementary and Youngsville Middle schools, staff has focused on a small change that will shift students who live closest to the Broussard Middle and Katharine Drexel Elementary school zones.
Lafayette Parish Schools Assistant Superintendent Sandra Billeaudeau described the change in an interview as “a spot zone modification — just one little spot to alleviate the numbers at Green T. and Youngsville Middle. …”
She said making the adjustment will allow the system to be more comfortable about taking in any new students living in that area of Youngsville.
The students affected by the change live closer to the Broussard schools and should be zoned there anyway, Billeaudeau said.
The proposed zone modification awaits board action at its next meeting on June 17 and, if approved, would take effect in the upcoming school year.
The Broussard/Youngsville school zone change appeared on the agenda for the School Board’s June 3 meeting as an introduction item, prompting at least four parents to attend the meeting. They waited more than three hours to address the board during the public comments section at the end of the meeting.
Parents Misty White and Stephenie Scelfo both told the board that they bought their homes based on current school zones because they wanted their children to attend Youngsville schools. White requested that the district’s School Board member, Jeremy Hidalgo, meet with residents to discuss the issue. Hidalgo agreed and has set up a meeting for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Broussard Community Center, 108 Broadview Drive.
Board member Tehmi Chassion told parents he thought the zone change was a “done deal” because it comes as a recommendation from staff after a review of enrollments in the area and the obvious overcrowding of the Youngsville schools.
Scelfo grew emotional as she addressed the board following Chassion’s comments and called the timing of the potential zone change frustrating.
“If it’s a done deal, when do we get a voice?” she asked through her tears. “We haven’t even been in our house a month. We specifically moved into this house for this reason.”
She asked the board to consider allowing currently enrolled students to stay in their existing zones.
Chassion said staff will write a policy related to zoning and that policy could include language that grandfathers in currently enrolled students into the zone, though no such policy has been introduced to the board yet.
Chassion told her that more changes are on the way for other parents based on the needs of the school district, Chassion told her.
“This is the first step in a number of steps and it happens to affect you guys and your neighborhood. It was identified because there are 100 plus kids in that (area) that can alleviate the overcrowding immediately at one school,” he told Scelfo.
Scelfo said parents may not send their children to the Broussard schools anyway, but may pull them out to send them to private or charter schools in the area.
Chassion said some schools are over their capacity by 300 students, so the problem has to be address.
“Staff has deemed this the first minor (zone change)...We’re going to respect staff’s recommendations,” he said
Billeaudeau said staff is sensitive to the concerns of parents, but that the zone modifications are necessary. She said staff is considering the creation of a policy that mandates zone reviews and modifications every three years based on populations, so residents are aware of potential changes down the line.
In recent weeks, staff has proposed other changes to move students around to help balance out enrollment and also reduce the length children’s bus rides.
For instance, an expansion of its English as a Second Language program will shift students to campuses closer to where they live, and some fifth grade students who receive gifted and talented services at L.J. Alleman Middle will shift to Edgar Martin Middle. That change will help free up a few classrooms at L.J. Alleman Middle, Billeaudeau has said.
Superintendent Donald Aguillard said staff is working on a comprehensive zoning plan and more recommendations could be introduced to the board in the coming weeks.
At the same June 3 meeting, the board also approved the construction of a new high school for Youngsville, as well as classroom wing additions at schools that officials say will also help alleviate overcrowding in the southern part of the parish.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.